The primary witness, mentioned in the charge sheet, claims that the plaintiff and the police had coerced him to give a false statement implicating Khabir Uddin in the murder case
For the past 14 months, the only neighbours Md Khabir Uddin has had are the 40 other prisoners with whom he shares his prison cell at Lalmonirhat District Central Jail.
Three unsavoury meals a day and weekly visits from his family are the only things keeping him sane.
However, Khabir claims he is not a prisoner – rather a hostage. His ransom, apparently, are the true culprits behind the murders, who also happen to be his distant relatives.
"The plaintiff made Khabir an accused as the main culprits already fled the village. They are putting pressure on Khabir's family to bring them back," admitted Ramzan Ali, the primary witness mentioned in the charge sheet of the case accusing Khabir.
Ramzan claimed the plaintiff and the police had coerced him to give a false statement implicating Khabir.
Police arrested Md Khabir Uddin, a teacher of West Dhoiljor Dakhil Madrasa, over a murder case on November 13, 2018.
"Police arrived at Khabir's house that morning and asked him about Khaleq Quari's house, looking for Khaleq's three sons – Md Oliar Rahman, Al Amin and Atikul Islam – in connection with a triple murder committed around three hours earlier," recounted Khabir's neighbour Rafiqul Islam.
The trio had allegedly killed Abdul Jalil, Golam Rabbani and Shahidar Rahman around 6:45am over a land dispute.
When Khabir took the police team to his relative and neighbour Khaleq's home, they could not find the three men.
Afterwards, they took Khabir to the police station under the pretence of asking him a few questions. But later that day, he was shown arrested in the murder case filed in the afternoon by Jahangir Alam – son of slain Abdul Jalil.
Police then produced Ramzan Ali and Mehedi Hasan before a Lalmonirhat court to take their testimony.
Police mentioned Md Oliar Rahman, Al Amin and Atikul Islam, Md Khabir Uddin, Md Shamsul Islam, and his sons Md Khorshed Alam and Joj Mia, as accused in the charge sheet submitted on October 10 last year.
Doubt over witness statements
Based on Ramzan's "testimony," Khabir's name was also included in the charge sheet.
Current officer-in charge of Aditmari police station Saiful Islam submitted the charge-sheet, although he said he was not involved in the investigation.
"If I had any power I would omit Khabir Uddin's name from the charge sheet. But all procedures were done by the then officer in charge Md Masud Rana. I just submitted the charge sheet when he went abroad for training," Saiful added.
But Md Masud Rana, who is now the officer in charge of Gaibandha's Shadullahpur police station, said he was not responsible for the charge sheet as he did not finalise and submit it.
At least 18 eye witness statements were also recorded. But all statements submitted to the court were one-page long, typed digitally, and identical. The Business Standard has obtained copies of all 18 eye-witnesses' statements prepared by the local police.
Asked if he had taken a laptop to the spot during investigation, OC Masud Rana said, "I am not bound to answer you. I will answer this only to the court."
But the doubt over witness statements does not end here. Ripon Miah, 42, was the fourth eye witness mentioned in the case.
A mobile phone call details record (CDR) of the person obtained by The Business Standard shows that he was in Dhaka's Mohakhali area on the day of the incident.
Omena Khatun, daughter of slain Golam Rabbani, said Ripon had actually accompanied her from Narayanganj to Lalmonirhat on that day to attend her father's funeral in the afternoon.
Plaintiff Jahangir Alam could not be reached over the phone for comments about the witness accounts.
Villagers say Khabir was not involved
On December 29 last year, a petition signed by 800 habitants of Taluk Haridas village of Lalmonirhat's Aditmari upazila sent a petition to the Public Security Division of the home ministry, seeking the removal of Khabir's name from the charge sheet.
Aditmari Upazila Chairman Imrul Kayes Faruq and Sarpukur Union Parishad Chairman Azizul Islam Prodhan signed the petition as well.
Azizul Islam Prodhan claimed that police had arrested Khabir to put pressure on the family of the alleged murderers as they are distant relatives.
A resident of the Taluk Haridas village Zobeda Begum said she did not see any policemen investigating the case after the day of the murder.
"If they had carried out a thorough investigation, innocent Khabir Uddin would not have been framed in the case. We seek justice for him," she added.
After Khabir's arrest, his son Golam Roisul Islam, 24, contacted Hasan Iqbal Chowdhury, the then additional superintendent of police (SP) of Aditmari circle.
"The circle additional SP also informed us that they could not omit my father's name from the charge sheet due to 'circumstances.' The policeman also mentioned that witnesses told him that my father was not present at the crime scene," said Roisul, a fourth-year student at the Dhaka University.
After the charge sheet was submitted, Roisul again contacted the additional SP, who suggested hiring a renowned lawyer could free Khabir within one month.
Hasan Iqbal Chowdhury could not be contacted for a comment as he is currently abroad.
'Complain over police framing innocent people is common'
To free his father, Roisul lodged a complaint with the Inspector General of Police's complain cell, seeking impartial investigation of the case.
SM Shafiqul Islam, the current additional police superintendent of Aditmari circle, confirmed he had received a complaint and already prepared a report – but refused to comment further.
Kazi Reazul Haque, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) told The Business Standard that allegations against the police are nothing new.
"I also got complaints against the police about framing innocent people. I urge the NHRC to look into the matter, and also the court, to take it seriously," he added.
Khabir Uddin's wife Rawshan Ara Begum Shiuli said, "Police said they will send him back after asking some questions, but he has not come back in 14 months.
"When will he come back?"